Friday, May 31, 2013

"The Trouble with Templeton"

Booth Templeton (Brian Aherne) and his late wife Laura (Pippa Scott)

“The Trouble with Templeton”
Season 2, Episode 45
Original airdate: December 9, 1960

Cast:
Booth Templeton: Brian Aherne
Laura Templeton: Pippa Scott
Arthur Willis: Sydney Pollack
Marty: Dave Willock
Sid Sperry: King Calder
Freddie: Larry Blake
Eddie: David Thursby
Barney Flueger: Charles Carlson


Crew:
Writer: E. Jack Neuman (original teleplay)
Director: Buzz Kulik
Producer:  Buck Houghton
Associate Producer: Del Reisman
Production Manager: Darrell Hallenbeck
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: George W. Davis and Philip Barber
Set Decoration: Henry Grace and H. Web Arrowsmith
Assistant Director: Lindsey Parsons, Jr. 
Casting: Ethel Winant
Editor: Bill Mosher
Sound: Franklin Milton and Charles Scheid
Music: Jeff Alexander

“And Now, Mr. Serling”
“An Attractive and rather imposing room lived in by a man named Templeton.  And like most rooms suggestive really of only a part of the man: the outside part.  Our story next week takes off from here.  Mr. Brian Aherne lends us his considerable talents in a script by E. Jack Neuman called, “The Trouble with Templeton.”  It can best be described as poignant, provocative and a highly diverting trip into the Twilight Zone

Rod Serling’s Opening Monologue:
“Pleased to present, for your consideration, Mr. Booth Templeton, serious and successful star of over thirty Broadway plays, who is not quite alright today.  Yesterday and its memories is what he wants.  And yesterday is what he’ll get.  Soon his years and his troubles will descend on him in an avalanche.  In order not to be crushed Mr. Booth Templeton will escape from his theatre and his world, and make his debut on another stage in another world that we call the Twilight Zone.”

Summary:
Booth Templeton, the famous actor, sits alone in his bedroom, his best years so far behind him they seem to have belonged to someone else.  Out by the pool his young wife makes her time in the company of the new house guest, which Booth takes to be her new lover.  He watches them without contempt for he is too old to be angry and realizes that he no longer loves her and perhaps never did.  Templeton is getting dressed for the first rehearsal of his new Broadway play.  While dressing, he waxes nostalgically to his assistant about his first wife who died when she was only twenty-five.  Now in the twilight of his life he feels like a relic of another time and longs for the brief time when he and his young bride were still together and life still felt fresh.  He pulls on his overcoat, steps out the door and makes his way to rehearsal.
                Once there, he walks into an uncomfortable theater where a militant young director recites a catalog of regulations and commandments to his subjects, the most important of which, he says, is never to be late, especially on the first day of rehearsal.  It is at this moment that he turns his attention to Templeton standing awkwardly in the doorway.  He begins to berate the aging actor for his tardiness in front of the entire cast and crew.  Shocked and embarrassed, Templeton flees into a nearby alley only to run into a crowd of people clapping enthusiastically just for him.  Befuddled, he stumbles his way through them.  Outside its night while only minutes before it was daylight.
                Templeton notices an advertisement for a play and realizes that it is for a play that he starred in more than thirty years ago.  An old man approaches and Templeton asks him what year it is.  “1927,” he responds.  The old man tells Templeton that his wife just phoned and asked that he meet her at a bar nearby.  Stunned, Templeton races to the bar to see his long deceased young wife.
                When he arrives Templeton immediately notices faces that he hasn’t seen years.  And then he sees Laura, the love of his life.  The love that was taken from him so many years before.  Laura sits at a table with a young man.  Templeton recognizes him as Barney Flueger, a friend from many years ago.  Templeton, now aged and forlorn, looks severely out of place next to the jubilant twenty somethings in the middle of the crowded, smoke-filled speakeasy.  Laura and Flueger all but ignore Templeton who pleads with his late wife that they go somewhere more intimate so they can talk.  Neither Laura nor Flueger acknowledge that is has been ages since they have seen Templeton nor do they let on that he is now noticeably twice their age.  Laura tells him that she doesn’t want to leave and that he is ruining the mood.  She ignores him but again he begs her to come with him somewhere private.  Laura begins to fan herself with a magazine and tries to change the conversation.  Templeton, frustrated, rips it out of her hands.  He explains to both of them that he lives in another world where he has grown older without them.  Laura and Flueger seem to find this amusing and they change the subject once again.  Templeton asks his late wife why she is acting so coldly towards him.  She continues to berate him to the point of humiliation, calling him a silly old fool.   Shocked and humiliated, Templeton gathers up his self-respect and flees the crowded bar room.  Upon his exit the music stops.  The faces grow solemn and the lights fade on the crowd as they stare back silently at the tragic Mr. Templeton as he storms out of the bar, his heart broken into tiny pieces. 
                Back inside the theatre it is 1960.  Booth walks into the room where the rest of the cast awaits his arrival so rehearsal can begin.  He reaches into his pocket and finds the magazine he took from Laura but discovers it isn’t a magazine it’s a play.  What to Do When Booth Comes Back.  He flips through the pages and realizes it’s an exact transcription of the conversation from the speakeasy.  It dawns on him that Laura and Flueger were only acting.  They were intentionally cold to him so that he would go back to his own time and live a happier life.
                The director approaches Templeton and wants to know the meaning behind his disappearance.  Templeton, now filled with the confidence of knowing that Laura still cares for him in another world somewhere, fires back at the young director.  He apologizes for being late but insists that the young man treat him with respect.  The director seems pleased by Templeton’s confidence and the two begin rehearsing for what is sure to be one of Booth Templeton’s best performances in years. 

Rod Serlings Closing Narration
“Mr. Booth Templeton, who shared with most human beings the hunger to recapture the past moments, the ones that soften with the years.  But in his case, the characters of his past blocked him out and sent him back to his own time, which is where we find him now.  Mr. Booth Templeton, who had a round-trip ticket…into the Twilight Zone.”

Commentary
Though one might think that this episode came from The Twilight Zone’s regular stock of writers, it is one of the few scripts in the show’s early seasons to be written by an outsider.  Though it is E. Jack Neuman’s only contribution to the series, “The Trouble with Templeton” fits perfectly within the atmosphere created by Serling and the other regular writers.  The first few times I watched this episode I just assumed that it was penned by Rod Serling because both the tone and the subject matter reflect his craftsmanship.  Indeed, it finds its thematic likeness in episodes like “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine” and “Walking Distance,” both of which were written by Serling.  It also bares a thematic resemblance to a script Serling later wrote for Night Gallery called “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar.”  Neuman’s dialogue here is also quite similar to Serling’s.
                Neuman was a friend of producer Buck Houghton and he submitted the script to Serling at a time when the show’s popularity was reaching its peak.  Serling, Houghton and associate producer Del Reisman were receiving hundreds upon hundreds of submitted manuscripts a week.  And apparently to no avail because for first four seasons the majority of the writing was done by only five people.  But Neuman’s script must have hit a soft spot with Serling because he gave it the go ahead and it turned out be a fine episode, one that is often overlooked when talking about the high points of the second season. Neuman’s other credits include creating several recognizable television series including Police Story and Dr. Kildare.
                To direct this dream-like episode the producers chose King Nine Will Return” director Buzz Kulik.  Kulik had a knack for directing these types of episodes and the producers would rely heavily upon him throughout Seasons Two and Three.  His other credits on the show include “Static,” “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim,” “A Game of Pool” and “A Quality of Mercy.”  Here his idiosyncratic skill with a camera lends itself nicely to Neuman’s script.  Throughout the episode the atmosphere sways from the warmth of nostalgia to the unsettling feeling of shock and embarrassment and back again.  While the script and the performances are all fantastic, this change in mood, which represents Templeton’s change in mood, is brought to life mostly by Kulik’s direction.  The scene in the speakeasy is the centerpiece of the episode and it is here that Kulik really solidifies the quality of the episode.  There is a sequence near the end of the scene in which the heartbroken Templeton storms out of the club.  Until this point the scene has been jumping with the sounds of roaring jazz music and the raucous laughter of carefree party-goers.  Upon Templeton’s exit, however, the music stops cold and the lights fade one by one on the bar patrons as they stare back at Templeton. A similar effect would be used in the aforementioned Night Gallery episode "They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar."  It is a haunting effect and some of the finest direction to appear on the series.  In an interview with The Twilight Zone Companion writer Marc Scott Zicree, Kulik commented that of the nine episodes he directed for the show "The Trouble with Templeton" was his favorite. 
                To play the lead Kulik and the producers cast veteran stage and screen actor Brian Aherne, whose career spans back to the era of silent films.  Aherne had been a force on the British stage before moving to Hollywood to appear in films.  His noteworthy films include the comedy Merrily We Live (1938), Juarez (1939, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award), The Locket (1946) and I Confess (1953).  Here he is completely believable as the sad, nostalgic Booth Templeton.
                Modern audiences can also spot a young Sidney Pollack playing the part of the pompous, militant theater director.  Pollack was a friend of Kulik’s and, in 1960, was still trying to make it as an actor.  Kulik claims that Pollack based his character’s southern accent on an actual stage director that neither one of them cared for.  Pollack later went on to be an acclaimed director with films like They Shoot Horses, Don’t They (1969), Tootsie (1982) and Out of Africa (1982).
                Filled with all the imagery and thematic elements that give The Twilight Zone its unique appeal, “The Trouble with Templeton” is definitely one of the better episodes of Season Two, which is saying quite a lot.  It’s one of a handful of episodes that I would recommend to viewers who have never seen an episode of the program. 

 Grade: B

Notes:
-"The Trouble with Templeton" was adapted as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama by Dennis Etchison, starring Michael York. 
--Larry Blake appeared in Rod Serling's adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's classic story "Cool Air" for Night Gallery.

 --Brian Durant

Up Next: Three nickel and dime crooks discover that a picture is worth a thousand words and then some.  That’s next time when we review Rod Serling’s “A Most Unusual Camera.” 

4 comments:

  1. It's funny that I have no recollection of this episode beyond the title. Your writeup has encouraged me to watch it again on Netflix!

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  2. Thanks, Jack. For some reason this episode is never shown in syndication so it often goes overlooked. If you get a chance check it out and let me know what you think.

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  3. This episode is my absolute favorite. The imagery following Templeton's exit from the bar is indeed very haunting and intense.

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  4. I agree Clyde. This episode tends to go unnoticed which is unfortunate. Buzz Kulik was probably one of the best directors that worked on the show which is saying quite a lot. Many of his episodes have a dreamlike atmosphere similar to this one. But I think "Templeton" may be his best. Thanks for stopping by!

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